Cincinnati Music Accelerator (CMA) has expanded its educational offerings for musicians through a reboot of its commercial program.
The new program is officially called the Music Business Academy. In it, artists learn how to strengthen their careers through courses in finance, monetization, music licensing, entertainment law, marketing and branding, and other skills.
The program is made possible by a $25,000 Black Empowerment Works grant, which was awarded to CMA through United Way.
CMA was founded in 2017 by Kick Lee, a music producer who is now the executive and creative director of CMA. The non-profit organization provides essential tools and resources to help independent musicians start and sustain creative careers. Companies and individuals can book talent through the CMA, and CMA artists have performed at various public events. Their goal is to “end the starving artist cycle” and their mission is to “make Cincinnati a music city,” according to the organization’s website.
The first iteration of CMA’s Music Business program featured regular two-hour classroom instruction. When the COVID-19 pandemic affected in-person programming, CMA offered virtual classes for free. But Lee says the course lost some of its value that way, prompting the CMA to think about the direction of the program. The Music Business Academy now offers enhanced instructions that artists can put into practice right away. The renowned name is inspired by another educational institution in Queen City.
“I made friends with the leaders of the (Cincinnati) Academy of the Arts,” says Lee CityBeat. “Seeing how they’re structured and how they work really inspired me to say, ‘Damn, I want to mirror our organization and this program like that. I want it to be free-spirited and open, but also inviting to anyone who is into the musical arts.
Lee and CMA have partnered with the Art Academy in the past for music industry workshops and other multidisciplinary arts initiatives.
CMA serves approximately 300 musicians and pays approximately 180 artists each year through bookings and events. As an educational institution, it aims to empower students to become entrepreneurs in the music industry.
“We provide you with resources and educate you about those resources, how they work and how they work. We take things you use in day-to-day life, like your finances, trying to promote yourself, attracting customers,” says Lee. “We teach you how these topics work and work so that you better understand, ‘if I do this, I can apply this here’ and vice versa.”
A key part of CMA’s philosophy, Lee says, is that it’s not enough for artists to be talented enough to book gigs — they must be able to run their business like professionals. This means keeping track of capital, having business and savings accounts, sending invoices, and maintaining a competent and professional demeanor when working with clients.
Sam Martin, Chief Operating Officer of CMA, says the Music Business Academy fits perfectly with their mission to help musicians further their careers.
“I think the Business Academy takes that to the next level and helps artists become ‘self-sufficient’,” says Martin.
Martin oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization, onboards and books talent, and interacts with CMA clients regarding current and future bookings, which he calls “activation.” Some of CMA’s recurring clients include Coffee Emporium, Cobblestone, Findlay Market and CVG Airport where CMA artists perform.
“I enjoy helping artists in Cincinnati and providing the platform to cultivate their passion into a career,” says Martin.
Emily Ward, CMA’s Columbus Regional Ambassador, shares a similar desire: to help artists succeed by providing them with an educational toolkit. She assists Martin with day-to-day operations while planning and structuring the Music Business Academy, recruiting potential musicians, and maintaining communication with artists and CMA staff.
“This intense and immersive program is a simplified version of all the information one needs to be successful in their artistic endeavours,” Ward says of the Music Business Academy. “I hope our CMA students will learn the supporting activities that are necessary to push their music and follow them to the next level.”
Local music artist Deuces is a CMA alumnus. He says the education he received “still carries a lot of weight and value” on his current career, describing how vital it is to understand the business side of the music industry.
“I basically learned the manual of being a successful creative and entrepreneur,” says Deuces. “I learned a lot from CMA, about how the entertainment world works, how to make money in many ways, how to run a business as a creative, understand how to navigate the entertainment industry, communication (this which is essential), workflow, cooperation, urgency, patience and, above all, self-esteem.”
Through CMA, Deuces regularly performed at live events, worked as a sound technician, toured Memphis, and created a Hip Hop play with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park titled The edge of town.
Another program offered by CMA is called the Street Stage Project in which students walk the streets of the city center and Over-the-Rhine, every day, in spring and summer. A cornerstone of this project – which is a partnership between CMA and 3CDC – is that students receive compensation in the form of tips and a small stipend provided by CMA.
“Something someone said to me that I’m going to keep saying is, ‘We work to put a song on every street because we’re called the city that sings,'” Lee says. “It kind of mirrors ArtWorks’ initiative to have a mural in 52 neighborhoods. If we can do that, if we can build that, we can have a sustainable system for musicians to have recurring gigs and support themselves and their families.
Lee says CMA is working with the Playhouse to develop performance workshops that revolve around stage presence. Performers will learn proper techniques and practices related to lighting, cabling, microphone positioning, and sound engineering – detailed habits that set amateurs apart from professionals.
“As a performer, you need to know these things. We see the foreground of the performance, but we never see the background,” says Lee. “That’s the premise of CMA. We’re in the background, teaching you things so that when you go somewhere, you don’t look confused or caught off guard and people look at you like, “I can handle you.” You are a professional, you should know that. This is to help prevent that. This is what many musicians we work with experience.
Additionally, CMA plans to expand its touring schedule to other cities. He completed the pilot phase of the tour, carrying the CMA stage trailer and performing in Memphis and Detroit. The team plans to go to Chicago and potentially Austin next. The purpose of these tours, Lee says, is to partner with similar organizations in other cities to establish a cross-collaborative exchange. They connect with organizations to integrate into events so that CMA artists are part of the performance lineup, alongside the artists of this city.
Ideally, the tour attracts new talents and business leaders in the music industry so that they count the queen city among the must-see cities in the industry.
“Cincinnati has great potential to be a music city,” says Lee. “I’m going to do everything I can to see us get to this point and build a sustainable music ecosystem here.”
The program fee for CMA’s Music Business Academy is $150. Prospective students can add their name to the online waiting list to be notified of availability.
To learn more about the CMA’s Music Business Academy, visit cincinnatimusicaccelerator.org.
Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest news, things to do and places to eat straight to your inbox.